A few days ago, I received an email from Jenny H. asking for my participation in an interview to include in her school project on “Drag Racing– An American Touchstone”. I thought it was a neat project to be able to help Jenny out with, and thought I’d share with you some of the questions she put together for me with the rest of you.
Jenny– Why did you choose to drag race? Did you have any idols/inspirations?
Erica— I discovered drag racing right after my high school graduation. I didn’t have a family involved in motorsports, my parents could hardly change a tire! Still, I was always racing around from place to place in high school, oblivious to the fact I was driving a painfully slow pick up truck at the time. Right after graduation, I bought my first car; a 1990 Mustang GT. I would take it out to the Test & Tune nights at my local track, perfecting my lights and driving skills. It wasn’t quite fast enough, so I started hanging out at a local performance shop, and attending some drag races. I was hooked! My spare time away from the track was spent with my eyes glued to the pages of the racing magazines, trying to absorb every bit of knowledge I could about the sport. As I learned more, I grew to admire many great pioneers in drag racing. But, the most inspirational and encouraging people have been the ladies who have paved the way in drag racing: great champions like Shirley Muldowney, Melanie Troxel, Angelle Sampey, and the rest of the ladies in the sport.
Jenny– How many years have you been racing?
Erica– Since 1998. I have had the wonderful opportunity to live & breathe my dream everyday for the past 8 years.
Jenny– Why did you choose to run Pro 5.0?
Erica– I started at the very bottom of the sportsman ranks in the Bracket 3 class of several all-Ford racing series. As I progressed as a driver, I moved up the ranks from True Street to Drag Radial, and my latest adventure… Pro 5.0, the fastest class in our series. My ultimate goal is to find a ride in NHRA Pro Modified or Pro Stock, and maybe even Top Fuel.
Jenny– How do you think drag racing as a whole has changed over the years (technologically, etc.)?
Erica– Everyday, racers seem to do the unthinkable and break down barriers unimaginable just a short time ago. Teams defy all obstacles set before them to keep them back, and no matter how many rules or restrictions are placed on us to slow us down, we all find a way to go just a little faster on race day. Along with such great advancement in power and speed, I think its critically important to also strive for the advancement of safety in the sport. The high speeds are a dangerous gamble for every driver on the track, but with continued focus on maintaining the highest standards of safety specifications, we minimize the likelihood of tragedy when incidents occur.
Jenny– How do you think drag racing has become an American phenomenon to the public?
Erica– Drag Racing has typically been overshadowed by NASCAR & Formula racing formats in the general American public. However, with the renewal of the factory “hot rod” wars, and the manner in which drag racing has remained grass roots and accessible to its fans and supporters, I believe that drag racing has emerged from the shadows to claim its place in the spot light. The younger generations are learning to embrace drag racing from exposure to Hollywood’s glitzy portrayal of American’s undying love of the automobile in movies such as Gone in 60 Seconds, and even the Fast & the Furious. Drag racing gives families a safe venue of pure adrenaline that people of all ages– from Jr. Dragsters on up, a chance to play along in a safe environment.
Jenny–Do you think that drag racing will still increase in popularity in future years? How so?
Erica– I definitely see drag racing’s rise in popularity growing drastically in coming years. The accessibility to fans and would-be participants makes it a very welcoming sport. Interaction with drivers, programs for families and youths, and the plethora of available classes and sanctions for every taste and budget; are some of the great benefits unique to drag racing that are not available in other racing venues. The grassroots mentality and support will propel the sport forward with ever-increasing momentum.
Jenny– What do you think is the worst accident you have had? Were there any injuries?
Erica– Thankfully, I have only been involved in one minor accident on the track (::Knock on wood::). Early in 2003, a mechanical failure caused fluid to spill out all over the track surface and under my tires, resulting in a scary hydroplane situation just before the 1/8th mile. I was able to steer out of a worse impact, but a rear flat tire (the result of the slide) caused the car to steer into the guardrail. It broke the headlamp, and all damage was minor cosmetic. Thanks to the required & properly used safety equipment, I was unharmed.
Jenny– How do you connect with your fans? Is it on a friendly ‘sure-here’s-an-autograph degree’ or sometimes a more personal degree?
Erica– I am a huge people person, and enjoy meeting new people. I am no different than any one else, and I try to make myself available for my fans to talk to me at any time. I am active on internet message boards, and I encourage people to visit my website and comment back. At the track, I balance working on the car and other raceday duties, but always will try and take a moment to stop and talk to people interested in the team & myself. I love to make new friends, and I don’t mind sharing my experiences with others who have the same ambitions as I have had for the past 8 years. Anything I can do to help!
Jenny– What was drag racing like during the beginning of your career? What about today?
Erica– I started driving my 15.00 second street car at the local test & tune. Back then, I would go round after round trying to perfect my reaction times and ET’s. I started entering Bracket competitions, and started modifying the car to go faster. I took time to learn from whatever reliable sources would offer the time to teach. Today, I still am hungry for more knowledge on improving as a driver and tuning the cars. I feel blessed to have progressed up the ranks in such a short time, and am grateful for every opportunity that has come my way. I am determined and unrelenting in my pursuit, and its my hope that this passion will lead me to realize my dream in coming years. Never give up!!!
Jenny– Have you broken any track records? What about speed barriers?
Erica– I haven’t secured any track records, but a few of my proudest accomplishments have been being the runner-up for the FFW Drag Radial Championship in 2003, being the first female in the 8’s on a radial tire, winning the Gainesville True Street event in 2002, and my runner-up finish at my first race ever, World Ford Challenge Bracket 3 competition in 2001.
Thanks, Jenny! Hope this helps!